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Inner Sanctum

Bannockburn is now a Geographical Indicator (GI)

The Battle for "Bannockburn"

Bannockburn is now a GI

Bannockburn as a wine growing region has been formally registered as a Geographical Indication (GI).  This provides legal protection for the sub-region both within and outside of New Zealand. 

A geographical indication (GI) is the name of a geographical area that is used to identify the origin of goods where some quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is related in some essential way to their geographical origin.

To be approved as a GI, you need to be able to show three things:

  • Clear geographical features and distinguishing characteristics (in Bannockburn with the Kawarau River in front and the mountains behind, it is easy to draw the lines).
  • The wine that derives from the proposed GI is believed to have particular, identifiable and distinctive characteristics, (for Bannockburn this was the hallmarks of great Bannockburn Pinot Noir).
  • External evidence, such as Bob Campbell wine reviews, to support the reputation of the GI.

OK. This is all very well, but what does it mean, why does it matter, and what is the real world impact?

It is interesting to look around the world and see how rapidly markets are evolving.

One of the most admired producers of Rioja, Artadi, recently announced that it would no longer be calling its wines Rioja. Carlos Artadi thinks the name Rioja no longer has any value. He points out that the Rioja appellation is the second-biggest in the world and he is concerned at what he sees as a focus on producing inexpensive Rioja. The major British supermarkets for instance, are currently offering a range of Riojas at £5 a bottle — a far cry from the vineyard-designated, handcrafted wines of Artadi, now sold simply as “Spanish wine”. Central Otago is a similarly large geographical region - from Alexandra to Bendigo to Wanaka to Gibbston to Lake Hayes. In Rioja, the finest examples share an appellation with the cheapest supermarket wines on offer.

While Terra Santa is proud of its association with Central Otago, as in Rioja, there is a risk to regional brands that end up being predominantly value/grocery wines in a race to the bottom. This risk has already played out in other areas. As discussed, some of the top producers in Rioja are proposing to stop putting Rioja on their label as they feel virtual/grocery focused labels are free riding on the region’s top brands and in doing so are degrading the regional brand.

A good example in New Zealand is the brand ‘Squealing Pig’. In the “About Us” section of Squealing Pig it says “Squealing Pig is a tale about a pig who wanted more from life than just his pig pen. Keen on wine without the super dry boar-ing bits, he went on an adventure to Marlborough and Central Otago seeking out wines with a difference.” Squealing Pig is one of the biggest selling Central Otago Pinot Noirs in Australia - a key export market for all Central Otago producers - and is a good example of the brand degradation that the premium producers in Rioja are concerned about.

As Michael Copper pointed out in a great Listener article, over the past decade, since Terra Sancta was founded, the same trend has occurred here with respect to vineyard ownership - with the majority of international billionaire and luxury goods brands' investments focused on Bannockburn. Examples include Bill Foley’s purchase of Mt Difficulty, LVMH’s purchase of Calvert vineyard on Felton Road, and Rothschild’s purchase of Akarua, (currently in OIO approval). These purchasers, from countries with established GI systems, (in Napa valley it is called an AVA) and vineyard ratings (LVMH, Rothschild), have centred on Bannockburn.

Where a wine comes from is perhaps the essential information, along with brand, in the general purchasing decision. A US Study, for example, showed that Appellation information (Appellation being the US word for a GI), was more important than an "organic' designation in the purchasing decision for premium wines and became a more important factor again in wines over $20.

Amongst frequent consumers, (defined as purchasing a bottle per week), GI information jumped to 2nd equal. Top was region, second equal were brand, vintage and appellation. This suggests GI information is of higher value to more informed consumers. A number of the best New Zealand restaurants already list Central Otago wines by subregion, recognising the different characters of the areas around Central Otago. The same is true in some of the best restaurants in Sydney and we expect this trend to only continue.